Canada expands immigration program for undocumented construction workers in GTA

Of note:

To help address Canada’s housing crisis, the federal government is expanding a small-scale pilot project that offers permanent residence for out-of-status construction workers who are already working underground in the sector here.

On Friday, the government said it is doubling the annual number of available spots in the program from 500 workers — plus their family members — to 1,000, as part of its plan to ease the labour shortage in skilled trades.

Potential applicants are required to first identify themselves to the Canadian Labour Congress, which pre-screens and refers qualified candidates for final assessment by the immigration department. Eligible candidates have until Jan. 2, 2024, to apply.

“This pilot program is a significant step forward in addressing critical labour shortages for the Greater Toronto Area by supporting stability in the construction industry and bringing workers out of the underground economy,” Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said in a statement.

“By providing regular pathways for out-of-status migrants, we are not only protecting workers and their families, but also safeguarding Canada’s labour market and ensuring that we can retain the skilled workers we need to grow our economy and build our communities.”

In Ontario, the construction sector had 28,360 jobs waiting to be filled in the second quarter of last year, up from 20,895 over the same period in 2021.

Last November, Fraser raised eyebrows when he unveiled Canada’s multi-year immigration plan to bring in 465,000 new permanent residents in 2023, as well as 485,000 in 2024 and 500,000 in 2025 despite concerns over a looming recession.

While the majority of Canadians welcome a higher immigration level, some worry about whether the country will be able to accommodate so many more people amid a tight rental and housing market, fearing the measures could drive up housing costs further.

“We’re pushing people to regions that have more capacity to absorb newcomers. It’s not a coincidence that we’re talking about establishing stronger regional pathways,” Fraser said then, referring to immigration programs that offer incentives for newcomers to settle in smaller, rural communities.

“We’re not going to solve this problem if we don’t build more housing. Realistically, we need to leverage the new flexibilities that will kick in in 2023 to do targeted (immigration) draws for people who have the skills to build more houses.”

There are as many as 500,000 undocumented residents estimated to be in Canada. Many work precarious and often exploitative jobs in construction, cleaning, caregiving, food processing and agriculture.

The vast majority of undocumented residents came to Canada legally, only to later lose status because of issues with student visas, temporary work permits or asylum claims, advocates say.

Those issues are born out of an increasingly temporary immigration system, where many residents struggle to extend short-term permits and gain permanent residency.

One of Fraser’s mandated priorities from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was to explore more ways to regularize undocumented residents.

The immigration department has completed research and consultation for a broader regularization program based on the construction worker pilot. Cabinet is currently weighing different options for a final plan, the Star has learned.

“Out-of-status workers are vulnerable to employer exploitation and abuse, and they and their families live with limited access to education, health and social programs,” noted Bea Bruske, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, in a news release.

“The extension of the out-of-status construction workers in the GTA initiative for 2023 will help more vulnerable workers and their families during these uncertain times.”

Under the construction worker pilot program, only undocumented construction workers who live in Toronto, Durham, Halton, Peel and York regions qualify.

Source: Canada expands immigration program for undocumented construction workers in GTA

New immigration program opens door to undocumented construction workers in GTA

Interesting. Seeing more and more pilot programs. Good way to test ideas but of course, they also generate constituencies that make them harder to change or cancel:

Ottawa has unveiled a new program that will offer both an immigration pathway for undocumented construction workers in Greater Toronto and help to address a labour shortage in the city.

The pilot has spots for 500 workers — plus their family members — and will open for application on September 3 through the Canadian Labour Congress, which will pre-screen and refer qualified candidates for final assessment by the immigration department.

“It’s a very small project for us but a very important project to initiate,” said Hassan Yussuff, president of the labour congress, who believes the number of non-status construction workers in the country is in the thousands. “Some of these workers have been here for five years plus and their families have set down roots in this country. We need to find a way to resolve their status.”

According to the latest forecast by Build Force Canada, a national industry-led workforce management research group, Ontario needs an additional 26,100 construction workers in the next 10 years as 91,100 people currently working in the sector will reach retirement age.

“Toronto is very busy right now with all the condo, infrastructure and transit projects. It’s tough to build projects when you don’t have the labour. It causes delays and increases costs. That’s not going to be of benefit to anyone,” said Andrew Pariser, vice-president of RESCON, a leading association of residential builders in Ontario.

“The history of the construction industry is built on immigration from Italy, Portugal, Eastern Europe, Scotland and Ireland. They all find a home in construction. We reward workers with skills and performance, and not where they come from.”

The labour congress has been working with immigration officials for almost two years to iron out the details of the pilot unveiled Friday. Only undocumented construction workers who live in Toronto, Durham, Halton, Peel and York regions qualify.

To be eligible, an applicant must have:

  • Entered legally initially as a temporary resident and lived in Canada for at least five years;
  • Proof of paying Canadian income tax;
  • Language ability for day-to-day conversation in English or French;
  • A family member living in Canada who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, or a spouse or child in Canada;
  • No previous offences that would make them inadmissible to Canada other than a breach of the immigration law for overstaying in the country.

The job categories that qualify for the program include: trades and skilled transport and equipment operators; maintenance and equipment operation trades; residential and commercial installers and servicers; heavy equipment operators (except crane); and construction trades helpers and labourers.

The labour congress’ Yussuff said applications will be processed on a first-come, first-serve basis and the first 500 qualified principal applicants will be provided a referral letter for the final assessment of the Immigration Department.

Immigration officials said many of the undocumented workers came to Canada with valid temporary resident status to fill labour shortages in the construction industry but have fallen out of status due to the now rescinded “four-in-four-out” rules introduced by the former Conservative government. That policy, in place between 2011 and 2015, required temporary foreign workers to leave Canada after working here for four years and banned them from returning for four years, but many chose to stay illegally.

“Without valid immigration status, these workers and their families have lived in fear and been left feeling very vulnerable. The presence of out-of-status workers in a significant industry leads to depressed wages for Canadians and makes workers vulnerable to employer exploitation and abuse,” the Immigration Department said in a statement.

“This temporary initiative is a step forward to increase the protection of some of these construction workers and their families, while safeguarding Canada’s labour market and ensuring that Canada can retain the workers it needs to grow the economy and build communities.”

Yussuff said personal information submitted by applicants to the congress will be kept confidential and priorities are given to those with spouses and children in Canada. Application to the labour congress pre-screening and referral is free, but qualified applicants must still pay for all applicable permanent residence processing fees.

Source: New immigration program opens door to undocumented construction workers in GTA

Douglas Todd: B.C. launches rare immigration plan for small towns

Seems like most governments are now developing comparable initiatives: the federal government with the Atlantic Immigration Pilot and the just announced Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, the Alberta UCP’s proposed program, and Manitoba’s approach to the Provincial Nominee Program.

The numbers are small in terms of total immigration but nevertheless can be significant for rural communities:

The B.C. government is venturing out on a rare Canadian effort to lure immigrants to the struggling hinterlands.

Aware that the vast majority of immigrants to the West Coast move into hectic Metro Vancouver, the B.C. government is launching a pilot program to lure entrepreneur immigrants to cities of less than 75,000 people that are distant from major urban centres.

Bruce Ralston, the minister of jobs, trade and technology, said 30 city mayors are already on board with the pilot program, which will give preferential treatment to well-off newcomers who commit to setting up a business in and living in a rural community for at least three years.

Maintaining that B.C.’s overall fertility rates are declining, the website for the so-called entrepreneur immigration regional pilot adds that small cities “face the additional challenge that young people are leaving for larger centres to find opportunities.”

The federal government’s immigration program has never put much effort into directing immigrants to rural areas, largely because immigrants have mobility rights under Canada’s charter and can move wherever they want.

But many migration specialists have urged Canada to develop incentives to shift immigrants to small towns, since 80 per cent of immigrants end up choosing the country’s major cities. About six in 10 recent immigrants squeeze into the three biggest metropolises, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.

Manitoba is one of the few innovative provinces that has used its own immigration scheme to divert new workers away from Winnipeg to towns such as Winkler and Altona. And after B.C. quietly announced it’s pilot small-city program months ago, Alberta Opposition Leader Jason Kenney this week promised something similar.

“This has not been tried before in B.C.,” said Ralston, noting that B.C.’s current provincial nominee program, which is sanctioned by the federal government, brings in about 6,000 potential immigrants a year.

The majority come from Asia; choosing Metro Vancouver for the wide job variety and the cultural familiarity of living in a place that already has large populations of Chinese, South Asians, Filipinos, South Koreans and other ethnic groups.

“This pilot program is designed to get people to commit to small communities. They would have to establish a business and stay for a minimum of one year until they obtain permanent resident status, which usually takes another 18 months,” Ralston said .

“Once they have permanent residency the law says they can move wherever they want. But we think the stickiness of establishing a business in a warm community that would be enthusiastic and would wrap their arms around you would be important.”

The pilot program, which may initially accept a couple of hundred applicants, requires would-be immigrants to first visit their chosen community, invest a minimum of $100,000 in a business, have a net worth of at least $300,000 and create at least one job.

The pilot program also requires the applicant to understand English, which, controversially, has not been expected of the hundreds of newcomers welcomed in recent years through B.C.’s existing provincial immigration program for entrepreneurs.

The B.C. government intends to work closely with small-community officials to make the program work and help new arrivals connect with members of their diaspora group, said Ralston. The entrepreneur immigrants will not be allowed to start certain businesses, such as real estate development, bed and breakfasts or hobby farms.

Asked how B.C. officials will monitor whether participants actually live in the towns in which they start a business, Ralston said, “The communities have an interest in this working. The monitoring will be done by the mayors and councils and communities themselves. So if it doesn’t work, I will hear about it pretty fast.”

Simon Fraser University political scientist Sanjay Jeram is one of those who have encouraged Canadian jurisdictions to follow the lead of European nations and create incentives for immigrants and others to settle outside metropolises.

The fact most immigrants to Canada move to Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary adds undue pressure not only to those cities’ housing costs, Jeram said, but to infrastructure, such as traffic and transit.

The inter-provincial migratory flows within B.C. travel many complex directions, however.

Even while it’s accurate to say some young people are leaving rural B.C. towns, a recent Statistics Canada report showed that Aboriginals and whites are leaving Metro Vancouver for other regions of B.C. (especially the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan).

A net total of 9,345 whites and 460 Indigenous people left Metro for other parts of the province in the one-year period ending July, 2016, according to a 2018 Statistics Canada report. The two other demographic groups that are tending to say goodbye to Metro Vancouver are those born in Canada and those between ages 55 and 65.

However, the idea that governments can encourage more immigrants, and perhaps the native-born, to make their lives in the small towns of Canada appears to be picking up steam in Canada, at least provincially.

The idea gained a boost this week when Kenney, a former federal immigration minister who now leads Alberta’s United Conservatives, announced a government led by his party would launch an immigration plan that would attract newcomer entrepreneurs to rural Alberta, in order to get “the best bang for the buck” on who settles in the province.

Meanwhile, Manitoba has been successfully focusing on attracting would-be immigrants to rural towns who are skilled workers, not wealthy business people. While Ralston said a similar small-city program for skilled newcomers has been discussed, he first wants to find out whether the two-year entrepreneur pilot program works in B.C.

dtodd

Source: Douglas Todd: B.C. launches rare immigration plan for small towns

No sign of bias against government job-seekers with ethnic-sounding names, pilot project finds

Given the overall employment equity numbers, and how representation at both the all employee and executive levels has continued to increase, not overly surprising but nevertheless helpful to have tested for bias:

Hiding ethnic-sounding names from resumes has no real bearing on who’s picked from the pile of applications for jobs in the federal public service, according to a pilot project on blind hiring.

A report released Tuesday by the Public Service Commission shows visible minorities were short-listed at roughly the same rate through a name-blind recruitment process (46 per cent) as through a traditional process (47 per cent).

“For visible minorities, results indicated no significant effect on the screening decisions of applications,” the report concludes.

The federal government launched the name-blind hiring pilot project last April to reduce bias in recruitment based on the names and ethnic origins of potential candidates.

In a blog post today, Treasury Board president Scott Brison said the pilot project aimed to see if unconscious bias was undermining hiring processes and the government’s efforts to build a more diverse public service.

He called the pilot “ground-breaking” and says it’s in line with the government’s focus on innovation and experimentation.

“The project did not uncover bias, but the findings do contribute to a growing body of knowledge,” he wrote.

“They provide us with insights to further explore in our steadfast support of diversity and inclusion in the public service; two critical characteristics of an energized, innovative and effective workforce, able to meet the demands of our ever-changing world.”

17 departments participated

The pilot project included 17 departments and 27 external hiring processes between April and October 2017. It had a sample of 2,226 applicants, including 685 members of visible minorities (just under 31 per cent.)

Jobs were in the scientific and professional, administrative and foreign service, technical and administrative support, and operational fields.

Applications in the blind process had the name, citizenship, country of origin, mailing address, spoken languages, references to religion, and names of educational institutions removed. The objective was to determine if applicants with ethnic-sounding names were disadvantaged in the screening process.

While the findings did not reveal any bias, the report notes that reviewers were aware they were participating in the blind recruitment project, and that “this awareness could have potentially affected their assessment.”

Because the number of candidates who self-declared as Indigenous (73, or three per cent), or disabled (102, or five per cent,) was small, the analysis was limited to visible minorities.

Among the participating departments were National Defence; Natural Resources; Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship; Global Affairs, the RCMP and Statistics Canada.

Similar studies

The report notes other studies on blind hiring have had mixed results.

A 2011 study in the Australian Public Service found that de-identifying applications at the short-listing stage did not appear to help promote diversity.

“In fact, when all candidate’s information was made available, reviewers discriminated in favour of female and visible minority candidates,” the report reads.

Benefits of name-blind recruitment may be partly dependent on the context of the organization, including whether discrimination is present in the hiring process and whether the organization has policies aimed at improving diversity.

In October 2015, the U.K. Civil Service implemented name-blind recruitment to reduce unconscious bias and boost diversity, but no systematic review of the impact has been carried out yet.

via No sign of bias against government job-seekers with ethnic-sounding names, pilot project finds – Politics – CBC News